Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Liverpool’s Torres In The Frame For Besiktas Clash

Fernando Torres has made a remarkable recovery from a thigh injury to return to training on Monday and Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will wait until last minute to see if he can include the summer-signing in the squad for the must-win Champions League game against Besiktas at Anfield on Tuesday.

The Spain striker had suffered an adductor strain against Arsenal and subsequently ruled out for at least three weeks. Benitez had expressed hope that he might have the 23-year-old back in two weeks.

And as such the former Atletico Madrid ace has responded well to the treatment to return to training on Monday. He will have another session tomorrow and Benitez admitted that he is “very confident” of the player being able to play some part against the Turkish club.

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso however will be out for a month with his metatarsal problem, which he picked against the Gunners, while defender Daniel Agger is three weeks away. Harry Kewell has meanwhile, come out unscathed from his recent outings after recovering from his groin injury.

Steven Gerrard: We Need To Go For The Jugular

Steven Gerrard has urged Liverpool to “go for the jugular” as they aim to keep their Champions League dream alive this evening.

Rafael Benitez’s side entertain Besiktas knowing anything other than victory will almost certainly mean failure to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition for the first time under the Spaniard.

Liverpool were surprisingly beaten 2-1 in Istanbul by the Turkish side a fortnight ago, a result which means they effectively need to win their remaining three Group A games to progress. And Gerrard believes the Anfield outfit, who could have Fernando Torres available this evening, have no option but to attack from the off and ensure another famous European night at the stadium.

“I said after the game in Istanbul that we face three massive games, cup finals in effect, in our remaining Champions League group games and I have not changed my mind since then,” said Gerrard.

“We have to make a fast start and rock Besiktas early on. I don’t think we have anything to fear from them coming over here.

“We need to go for the jugular from the first whistle. We know we need a night like Juventus, Chelsea and Olympiakos, which was probably the last time we were in a similar position to now. Our backs were against the wall, and unfortunately that’s where we are again.

“But we know we can do it. On these European nights, everyone has to work together. We have to give the fans something to believe and get them going from the first whistle. Besiktas will sit back and break the game up, so we might need to be patient and then make sure our quality tells. If we get our performance right, then there are very few teams, if any, can live with us. We have got to get it right tonight.”

Liverpool were guilty of some profligate finishing against Besiktas two weeks ago before a late Gerrard goal gave hope of an equaliser after the Turks had led 2-0. And the skipper reckons the performance that night was an indicator Benitez’s side are capable of a morale-boosting triumph this evening.

“Despite the fact they got a good result in their own stadium, even they would admit we had more than enough chances to win the game over there,” added Gerrard.

“We believe in ourselves and our ability to go and get the job done. It would be great to send a message to the rest of the teams in our group that we are back, but we have to get the result on Tuesday.

“In the past we have saved some of our best games for this competition, but this season we have just not got going.

“We battled for a point in Porto without playing well and got what we deserved against Marseille. We didn’t take enough of our chances in Turkey and we won’t make the same mistake again here. We cannot afford to now we have left ourselves with no margin for error.”

Liverpool could have Torres in the squad tonight after the Span-iard made a quicker than expected recovery from his adductor problem.

The striker was in training yesterday and Benitez is considering taking a risk on the player given his team’s goal-scoring woes that were again illustrated against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

Benitez said: “We will talk with the doctor, the physios and the player, but he is much better than last time. We must be really positive but we also have to be careful.

“He wanted to play last time and it was a very important game, so perhaps he wasn’t really fit, but players always want to play and think they are fit in those situations. I think we have enough power up front without Torres, but this is also a game when we might have to take a risk.”

Harry Kewell is likely to be restricted to bench duty again following impressive substitute appearances against Cardiff City and Blackburn in the last week. However, both Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger will remain sidelined for the next three weeks as they recover from their metatarsal injuries.

Rafa Benitez Dismisses Europe Pressure

Rafael Benitez has dismissed the financial implications should Liverpool fail to progress from the Champions League group stage – and believes he is not under any extra pressure from the club’s American owners.

Anything but victory at home to Besiktas this evening would leave the Anfield outfit facing an early exit from the competition and missing out on a minimum of £14million in revenue.

However, Benitez reveals the club’s financial situation was not on the agenda during a meeting with Tom Hicks and George Gillett last week.

And the Liverpool manager is confident the Americans share his long-term view at Anfield of putting on-field success ahead of off-field gains.

“When you talk about a £400m stadium and the amount you get for reaching the final, then an extra £10m or so is not a big difference,” said Benitez. “What is important is that we progress in this competition. Football is the most important thing. We want to win because we want to win trophies, not because we want to save the financial situation. Of course, the owners want the money but is there a big difference between £400m and £410m?

“Every penny is important, but I don’t think the Champions League will make a big difference. We want to win and we want to progress, but it would be a big mistake to think about it only in terms of money.”

Benitez added: “I don’t know if not qualifying will make a difference to my transfer budget. I was reading some papers at the weekend that said I had no money, £20m and £25m.

“We didn’t talk about how much I’ve got to spend when I met Tom and George last week. We talked about the situation with the team, their plans for the future, the stadium, everything.

“I don’t feel there is any extra pressure on me after the meeting. When I spoke to them about my plan they were really pleased with it. Now we just have to keep doing the right things and the plan will be successful.

“Everything is good. They have been supportive from the first time I met them. They are nice people.”

Benitez believes that time rather than money is now the key factor to turning Liverpool into a team capable of regularly challenging for honours both home and abroad. The Spaniard said: “For a manager, when you are progressing and changing things, it cannot be done in one minute. You need time, but it is the same for all managers. I think we are improving and going in the right direction.

“The money is not the most important thing because of the position of the squad. The squad is strong. We need to improve two or three things but I am happy with the squad. We have better players now, the value of the players is much higher than before, so we are in a much better position.

“What are the two or three things? The owners know but now is not the moment to talk about them in public.”

Benitez has called for passion and cool heads from his players this evening, with Liverpool hoping to continue their record of having never lost at home to Turkish opposition.

“Win or lose I try to stay calm,” he said. “I can be disappointed, but I try to stay calm. If we cannot win I am the first one to analyse why and think about what we have to do, so I don’t need too many people telling me. I am always analysing and trying to improve with my staff.”